May's plant of the month, English Lavender, is as classic as they come. An aromatic shrub that's equally at home in your grandmother’s ramshackle cottage garden, or your trendy neighbour’s minimalist container roof terrace. The compact forms make a beautiful low hedge and they are a great, traditional companion for roses. Lavender flowers, leaves and essential oils are used in herbal medicine, being noted as a relaxant and insect repellent, with the flowers also making a fine culinary herb (a great addition to cup cakes, used in moderation!) It has been providing colour, form and scent to gardens for generations, as well as being one of the best bee-friendly plants available. If you walk past a Lavender bush in the height of summer you will hear it literally humming with life. The varieties Hidcote and Munstead are particularly recommended, both being easy, hardy, free-flowering and getting anywhere from 40 to 60cm. Most Lavandula angustifolia have perfumed silver-grey evergreen foliage and spikes of equally perfumed flower in blues, violets, purples and even the odd white.
Lavender is as English as St. George. In as much as, like George, it doesn't originate from England at all, but from the Mediterranean region. Like most plants from that area it likes a sunny, free-draining aspect and can grow in all soil types, even poor soils, as long as the drainage is good. So potting grit is an essential when planting. This also makes it a great pot plant, so whatever the size of your garden or outside space, English Lavender's colour, scent and splendour deserves a place in it.